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STRIVE – Know Your Rights and Help Others

February 13th, 2017 by thm1

Entering the United States as an international student is both exciting and daunting. Many international students will focus on the university’s politics, intellectualism, culture, food, where they will live, etc. What may be missing from the inquisitive minds of our brilliant international students are their rights as a student of Rice University. Just as it is crucial for students to learn about the laws of the United States, it is just as important to read over Rice University’s Student Code of Conduct.

New members of the Rice community may not realize that they are both held to the standards of the university and are given the right to make a complaint if they are feeling mistreated. As a STRIVE (Students Transforming Rice Into a Violence-Free Environment) Liaison, I urge all international students to read through their responsibilities to other students, faculty and staff. More importantly, if you feel that you have been discriminated against in any way; if you are experiencing sexual or domestic abuse, harassment, or pregnancy discrimination, we have help available for you, regardless of your international status.

Please submit any questions you may have to strivegrads@gmail.com. We will help you and we will not share your information to the university without your permission. We will also help you access the resources available to you. If you would like to help students to understand their rights, please consider becoming a STRIVE Liaison. APPLICATIONS ARE NOW OPEN (through February 19, 2017). Liaisons are given training. All students are welcome and encouraged to apply.

By Makiko Hirata, STRIVE Liaison

International Education Week 2016

November 28th, 2016 by thm1

The week before Thanksgiving was devoted to International Education, as Rice celebrated International Education Week (IEW) 2016 with a full schedule of events hosted by various departments and offices all across our campus. Here is a little recap of our wonderful week of celebrating international education and the remarkable international population at Rice University:img_4131

• We kicked off IEW on the previous Saturday with an annual tradition, the Mini Soccer World Cup. In this friendly tournament four teams – Africa, Americas, Asia and Europe – competed for fame and the coveted IEW Mini Soccer World Cup trophy! The teams consisted of members across the Rice community, and included international and U.S. citizen students, scholars, and staff members. In the end, the undefeated Team Africa was crowned as the IEW Mini Soccer World Cup Champions 2016

img_4144• OISS hosted an appreciation luncheon for the Presidents of the international students clubs and organizations at Rice. This event, also an IEW tradition, is a wonderful opportunity for OISS to show our appreciation and gratitude for the work these amazing student leaders do for their respective populations. Their efforts benefit not only the students and scholars from their countries, but also the entire Rice community, and International Education Week is the perfect time for OISS to celebrate their commitment to service. We were also honored to have Mr. Kazimir Karwowski, Executive Director of RCEL, as our VIP guest.

• The wonderful Mayra Onuchic from the Brasil@Rice Office hosted Cooking with Brasil@Rice, and taught us how to make delicious Pão de queijo, Brazilian cheese bread. We can’t wait to try this at home!img_2397

• On the Thursday of IEW, OISS invited 80 international students and scholars to join us for a traditional Thanksgiving lunch. We enjoyed a wonderful meal and great conversation as we discussed the history and meaning of Thanksgiving, holiday plans, and other great topics.

• OISS concluded IEW on the Monday after the week officially ended by hosting an International Coffee Break in partnership with the Graduate Student Association (GSA). International student clubs and organizations from Iran, Brazil, Latin America, Korea, China and India provided delicious treats from their countries/regions. It was the perfect way to conclude Rice’s International Education Week.img_4167

In addition to these events, there were many other activities hosted throughout IEW all across campus. For a complete list of events and participating departments and offices, please visit http://oiss.rice.edu/iew. Thank you for an amazing IEW!!

By Andy Meretoja

Let’s spread the “bug”

November 2nd, 2016 by rv5

dsc01125If you want to be a part of something really special, you must contribute to society by doing something you are not paid to do.

I could be convinced this was one of the principles the US was founded on because giving back to the community and helping those less fortunate is one of the unique characteristics of the American culture today. I have not heard of a country that committed so deeply as a nation to helping others, nor have I met a more organized community of volunteers and endless opportunities anywhere else.img_1160

You can see people helping out everywhere; in their kids’ school, or in their communities. Perhaps they are building houses for deserving families, serving hot meals or visiting hospitals and nursing homes. They might be donating money to charities, participating in races and raising awareness for issues that matter to them. One could not help but wonder how and why people are willing to offer money they worked so hard for or use their well-deserved free time for benefiting others, but the generosity of the American people is actually beyond the act of kindness and helping others is their way of living.

As the saying goes, volunteering is contagious and once you get the bug it stays with you. This is proven by not only the growing numbers of those who value involvement with volunteer and civic activities, per the research of the Kinder Institute, but also by our own example. Last year OISS and 16 international students and scholars packed thousands of pounds of produce equaling 8,750 meals at the Houston Food Bank, and we plan to do something similar again. img_1152

If you are ready for a meaningful event that gives you pride and satisfaction, and want to experience one of the greatest American traditions, consider joining us on Wednesday, December 21, 2016. As part of OISS’ Winter Events series this year we are committed again to give back to the community and make a difference the American way.

Take this opportunity to contribute to society, and enrich your cultural experience, guaranteed!

By Agnes Vajtai

Football Clinic 2016

August 11th, 2016 by thm1

Goooooo Owls!

Ever watch an American football game and felt completely confused?! You’re not alone! To help you learn the rules of football in a fun way, the Rice football team has offered to give the Rice International Community a special night of fun. Each attendee will also receive a free Rice football t-shirt! The event will be held on Saturday, August 20th from 5:00-8:00 p.m. at the Rice Stadium.

We will start off the night with a real Texas tailgate which is an important part of sports in the US. A tailgate party is usually held at the tailgate area of a vehicle, usually a truck, which is where the name comes from. These parties include food and drinks, but are really just a great way to hang out with friends before a game. This is also a great time to paint your face, play some games, and just get pumped up about the upcoming match. While these tailgating parties were initially just for football, you’ll often see them at other sporting events as well. Most commonly, fans will sit out for a few hours before a game in the stadium parking lot grilling hot dogs or hamburgers. For those who do not have tickets to the game, they will often bring a television and watch the game in the parking lot while eating. For our event, we’ll be eating pizza. Regardless of what you eat, it is about the fun community that you build while waiting for the game to start!

After the tailgate, we’ll head into the brand new football facility to learn the basics of football. We will split up into two groups: Offense and Defense. After your “lesson,” you’ll switch places to learn about the other side! That means that if you start on the Offense side, after you learn the rules of how to play on the offense, you’ll go to another room afterward to learn about how to play defense! You’ll get a chance to learn the terms, the rules, the scoring, and what to watch for in a game. If you want to get a head start to familiarize yourself with the game, take a look at the Wikipedia article here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/American_football.

We’ll finish up the evening by going down to the football field! This is a rare opportunity to enjoy the field all by yourselves. Once on the field, the Rice football team will be there to run drills to show you how everything is run. You’ll get a chance to see the differences between the special teams, offense and defense are which will help clarify all the theoretical explanations from the clinic. Be sure that you wear very comfortable shoes because we’ll be running in the grass, throwing footballs, and learning fancy footwork!

If you would like to join us, you must RSVP. Sign-up for this event has been closed! Please note that only the first 200 to RSVP will be allowed in. See you there!

By Andy Meretoja

Houston Rodeo Starting From March 1

March 1st, 2016 by as115


This year’s Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo (also called Rodeo Houston) is starting on March 1st. Houston’s Rodeo is one of the largest Rodeos in the world, attracting 2.5 million attendees, and it is considered to be the city’s signature event. 

Rodeo is a fun entertainment event which typically has sports shows such as bareback riding, tie-down roping and barrel racing. It also holds concerts by world-famous different artists everyday, which attracts tens of thousands of people by itself. It also has unique events such as Bar-B-Que Contest or Rodeo Uncorked! International Wine Competition before the official start. Rice University also joined City of Houston and celebrated Rodeo Houston on Friday, February 27th with Go Texan Day where people are encouraged to dress in Western attire (boots, jeans, etc). 

Rodeo is not just for entertainment but it is also a huge agricultural business opportunity. The Houston Livestock Show is the largest one in the world. During the 2014 Show, there were more than 29,000 livestock and horse show entries recorded. Exhibitors bring everything from cattle, rabbits, sheep and goats, and they compete on the quality of their products. 

Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo is held from March 1st to March 20th in 2016 at Reliant Stadium. For more information, visit http://www.rodeohouston.com/

Let’s put on your Western clothes and go see the real cowboys!                                                                                                                                      photo


Filing Your Taxes

February 25th, 2016 by as115


Every international student, scholar and their dependents (including spouses and children of all ages) are required to file tax if they were present in the US for any length of time in 2015. The deadline for filing your tax forms with the US government is April 18th (Mon), 2016. You must mail your completed forms and supporting documentation, as required, by that date.

OISS has purchased enough number of licenses for an online software called Glacier Tax Prep (GTP) which is designed to assist internationals (non-resident aliens for tax purpose) with tax filing. The software will be available at OISS beginning March 9th (Mon). Please stop by at OISS and sign-up for the license. You need to pay $2 license fee (cash only).

Tax filing can be confusing, but we at OISS want to do what we can to make the process easier. Below are some tips and resources for filing taxes.

Step1: Determine your Tax Residence Status

International students and their dependents on F-1/F-2 and J-1/J-2 visas are automatically considered non-resident aliens for their first 5 calendar years in the US, and scholars (and their dependents) on J visas are automatically considered non-residents for their first 2 calendar years in the US. However, there are exceptions. Substantial Presence Test will be the formula to determine if you should be taxed as a resident or nonresident alien.

If you are non-resident alien, you may use Glacier Tax Prep (GTP) software to complete the forms.  Please purchase the software license at OISS (beginning March 9th).

If you are resident alien for tax purpose, GTP unfortunately will not be able to help. You may check out IRS Free File (tax preparation software) information https://www.irs.gov/uac/Free-File:-Do-Your-Federal-Taxes-for-Free or use any software or tax filing service firms that is commonly used by U.S. citizens.

Step2: Determine if you have taxable income from U.S.

You have to report any U.S. source income including wages, scholarship, fellowship and stipend. For non-resident aliens, bank interests are not taxable.

If you did not receive any income during 2015, you may only need to complete the Form 8843.  Glacier Tax Prep software can assist you with this determination.

If you received any income during 2015, you may need to complete the Form 8843 and Form 1040NR or 1040NR-EZ. Glacier Tax Prep software can assist you with this determination and to complete the forms. Tax filing is not mandatory if your income is less than $4,000, however you still must complete Form 8843.

Step3: Make sure you received all the necessary supporting documents

You may receive following documents:

  •  W-2 form – You will need W-2 from each employer you had in 2015. If you worked for Rice, W-2s are available through your ESTHER account after January 31or it will be mailed to you if you are no longer with Rice.
  • 1042-S form – Foreign nationals may receive a 1042-S if they are recipients of tax treaty benefits, scholarships or fellowships from nontax treaty countries. 1042-S forms are picked up from Payroll or may be available online if you have signed up with Payroll’s FNIS

Step4: Create your tax forms

If you are non-resident alien and you have income to report, we advise you to use Glacier Tax Prep software.

The system will tell you if you owe taxes or if the government owes you a refund. If you need to pay to the government, the best option is to enclose a check with your tax documents.

If you do not have a Social Security Number (SSN), you will need to apply for ITIN and submit the application Form (W-7) together with your tax return.  For details on how to apply for ITIN, please see our website http://oiss.rice.edu/tax

Step 5: Mail your tax forms

Once you complete the forms, sign and mail them to the address below with the supporting documents (except when you are enclosing payment).

Department of the Treasury
Internal Revenue Service Center
Austin, Texas, 73301-0215

If you are applying for ITIN at the same time, you need to go to the local IRS office and submit your tax return there.

Make sure to keep copies of all your tax forms before you send.

Step 6: How to follow-up with your tax return

To check the status of your tax return, go to the IRS website https://www.irs.gov/Refunds
Please note that tax return for non-resident alien takes very long time. If there is any additional documents required, IRS will notify you by mail only. IRS would never try to reach you by phone or e-mail. Please be aware of scams and never give your Social Security Number (SSN) to anyone by phone or e-mail.

Additional resources available on the OISS website: http://oiss.rice.edu/tax


Letters of support for DPS – Driver’s license and Texas ID

December 10th, 2015 by sandra

Letter for DPS to verify on-campus address:

Students needing to provide evidence of residency for the purpose of applying for a Texas driver’s license or Texas ID may request supporting documentation as listed below. If you have any questions regarding letters of support for DPS, please contact OISS at 713-348-6095 or by email at oiss@rice.edu.

If you live on campus, you can request a letter of verification of your local address for the 30 day residency requirement from the Office of Housing & Dining. Please email your request to the following address:

– If you live in one of the Residential Colleges, please email David McDonald at dm7@rice.edu.
– If you live in Rice Graduate Apartments, please email gradapts@rice.edu.
– If you live in Rice Village Apartments, please email rvapts@rice.edu.
– If you live off-campus, please see a list of acceptable residency documents on the DPS website (http://www.txdps.state.tx.us/DriverLicense/).

Thank you!



Mandatory Address Changes in SEVIS . . .for all F and J Visa holders

August 27th, 2015 by jb59

The Student & Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) recently completed a significant update to their SEVIS system, implementing many changes. One of the most significant updates is the verification of F-1 and J-1 local addresses. SEVIS will now reject improperly formatted, invalid, or non-compliant addresses for F-1 and J-1 visa holders.

How does this impact you? In order for you to be in proper SEVIS and immigration compliance, you must be sure your address in ESTHER is accurate and properly formatted. This address is sent to SEVIS and directly impacts your immigration compliance.

What should I do? Please login to your ESTHER account and update/verify that your information is compliant. Follow the steps below:
1) Visit http://esther.rice.edu
2) Select Personal Information
3) Select Update Addresses/Phones
4) Update Mailing Address (if Mailing Address is not an option for you, update Permanent Address) with proper USPS formatting
Tip: visit https://tools.usps.com/go/ZipLookupAction_input, enter your address in the lookup tool, and the USPS website will provide you with the proper formatting for your address.

Generally speaking, when indicating your local address (the address where you live, not your office address), please use the available fields as follows:
a. Address Line 1 = Street address – EX: 100 Main St.
b. Address Line 2 = Apartment number, Apartment complex name, Hotel name, residential college name – EX: Apt.5 or Jones College, Rm 405
d. City = Properly spelled US city
e. State
f. ZIP = accurate 5 digit zip code
g. Phone = **Please note that all J visa holders are required to enter a valid local phone number

What happens next? We submit these updates to SEVIS on a daily basis. OISS will notify you if your information update is rejected by SEVIS, and guide you on how to correct it so that you are in valid immigration compliance. Please be sure to follow the steps above, check your formatting on the USPS website, and notify OISS of any change of address within 10 days of a move.

Thank you in advance for your compliance!

By Sandra Bloem-Curtis

Special Advanced Immigration Seminar

August 27th, 2015 by jb59

Do not miss the opportunity to hear Silvia Graves, immigration lawyer from Graves & Graves, Attorneys at Law, who will come to campus on September 30, 2015!
Topics include employment in the USA now and after your nonimmigrant status, H-1Bs, O-1s, other nonimmigrant visas, permanent residency, immigration limitations and opportunities.
Who: Speaker, Silvia Graves, Immigration Attorney from Graves & Graves, Attorneys at Law
When: Wednesday, September 30, 2015
Time: 4-5:30pm
Where: Sewall Hall 301
Mark your calendars and bring a friend to this free seminar!

Work Authorization for Off-Campus Jobs, Internships and Research

August 25th, 2015 by jb59

By Rachel Portwood, International Advisor

Every semester OISS advisors assist many international students with authorization for positions related to their academic curricula. These work experiences range from part-time internships during the school year to jobs during academic breaks to research or full-time employment after graduation. Obtaining work authorization for F-1 and J-1 students will require some effort and preparation in advance, but the process can be pain-free if you attend one of our workshops and are diligent about following the standard procedures.

All off-campus practical training, internships, research and work experience must be approved prior to rendering services.

 What about On-Campus Work? F-1 students do not need separate authorization to work on campus in most situations. Generally speaking, on campus work up to 20 hours per week during the academic semester is permitted. However, J-1 students do require authorization for all on-campus work. Please contact OISS for details or if you are unsure if your work constitutes as “on campus.”

 What kind of Authorization do I need? Generally speaking, F-1 students will apply for CPT to work during their studies, and apply for OPT in their last semester in order to work after graduation. J-1 students need to apply for Academic Training.

Curricular Practical Training*: CPT is authorization for F-1 students to work during your degree program at Rice. You must already have a job offer in order to apply for CPT. It can be approved by OISS within a few days once you have completed the required paperwork. You will need to provide the OISS with approval from your professor/academic advisor, proof the experience is part of your curriculum, verification of your degree program, and an offer letter.  In order for your application to be processed efficiently, please note that the offer letter from your employer must contain the start and end dates of your position, how many hours per week you will work, a brief description of your duties, and the address where you will be working.

Even if you have applied for CPT before, you may wish to attend one of our workshops again as our processes have changed with tightening immigration compliance. OISS has outlined guidelines and procedures for CPT on our website at http://oiss.rice.edu/studentwork/.

Optional Practical Training*: OPT is authorization for F-1 students to work after you complete your degree program with Rice. Although you do not need to have a job offer in order to apply, OPT requires more planning than CPT since it involves an application to USCIS (U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services) and can take an average of three months to be approved. We encourage you to begin your application before you complete your Rice degree requirements – as early as 90 days before you finish. More details about the OPT process can be found on our website at http://oiss.rice.edu/studentwork/.

You might hear friends say that they received their EAD card (Employment Authorization Document) in just a few weeks, but it often takes USCIS a full three months  to process OPT applications. Without your EAD card in-hand, you may not start an OPT job (even unpaid) after graduation.

Academic Training (AT) J-1 students use Academic Training for work permission, both during and after their Rice degree programs. Please see OISS’ “J-1 Academic Training Handout” for details and make an appointment to discuss your situation with an advisor.

F-1 CPT/OPT Workshops: OISS holds 10 – 15 workshops each semester in which we discuss CPT and OPT requirements and procedures in detail. We also address staying in the U.S. beyond OPT (STEM OPT extension, H-1B, and other visa categories).

Please plan to attend a workshop before you need work authorization. Visit our website to see the most up to date information on our workshops.


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